A week ago today – 14 July 2015 – a national holiday took place all over France.
It was called Bastille Day.
This anniversary marks the Storming of the Bastille on the 14th July 1789.
Led by the revolutionaries of Paris, the angry pheasants stormed the medieval prison called Bastille in Paris to get out the people, who were unfairly imprisoned. This event prompted the French Revolution of 1789, and the eventual fall of the French Monarchy.
France, as we know it, was born.
According to my favourite historical comedy show Horrible Histories, the angry pheasants were so hungry when they ran into the prison that they sat down and ate the food on the feast table with the prison guards!¹
They must have been starving! I cannot imagine it! Croissants would have been a complete privilege too. This reminds me of a quote that is often misattributed to the Revolution: “Let them eat cake!” As I said on this blog’s Instagram account:
Contrary to popular belief, Marie Antoinette was not the person who proclaimed: “Let them eat cake!” The quote in the original French (Qu’ils mangent de la brioche) appeared in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s ‘Confessions’ in 1765 when Marie was nine years old.² Therefore, it was not her.
I’m not French. I’m not entirely sure I have any ounce of French blood. But I do speak a bit of French, and I understand more than I speak. I’ve also lived in Paris for a bit, and I was not far from Place de la Bastille.
As a medievalist, it made me sad that the medieval building wasn’t there anymore (it was burnt down a year later. You can find remains on a couple of Metro lines). It would have been ginormous. Go to Château de Vincennes in on the same side of Paris, which was also a prison once, and you will get the idea of its scale.
So, while I get sad about that, and the fact a monarchy disappeared, this holiday gives a communal feeling, and so I joined in with the celebrations. I wasn’t in France, but I went along with my mother and her French-Swiss best friend to Brasserie Blanc in London, had complimentary Bastille Bubbly, and steak frites.
Having fun, relaxing, and enjoying good company is what holidays are all about, and that was exactly what I did.
¹ Awesome Stories, French Revolution - The Storming of the Bastille, https://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/French-Revolution-Storming-the-Bastille, [n.d.], [accessed: 14 July 2015]. ² Wikipedia, Let them eat cake, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Let_them_eat_cake, [n.d.], [accessed 21 July 2015].